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Do customers care about sustainability when they travel? asks Claire Yeates, Director at Waterscan

I was asked to be part of a panel discussion at the World Travel Market (WTM) event which took place at London’s Excel recently. The topic was: ‘Should the hospitality industry be communicating sustainability to its customers?’ and I was joined by Helena Egan, Global Director of Industry Relations at TripAdvisor, and Gavin Sanders, Radisson Blu Edwardian’s General Manager, in what proved to be a lively debate expertly chaired by Siobhan O’Neill, Editor of Green Hotelier.WTM image

Some years ago when we first started seeing little ‘tent cards’ in hotel bedrooms and bathrooms asking us to consider our environmental footprint by making an active choice about whether we really needed our towels and bed linen washed and changed each day, they stopped and made us think.  It was new.  Hmmm – surely it’s down to the hotel to make the right decision isn’t it? Why are you asking for my input?

Years on, all that has changed.  Consumer input and opinion has become the cornerstone of travel. Whether for business or pleasure, most of us wouldn’t dream of making a booking without analysing reviews on TripAdvisor and garnering the feedback of others.

At the same time, those little tent cards which demanded attention because they were so new have become so commonplace that most people don’t even bother to read them anymore.  But that’s because most people don’t need to.  Consumer behaviour has changed, with most of us not dreaming of having our towels changed on a daily basis, knowing that our choice as individuals is important and that we can each play our part.  It’s a step in the right direction.

TRIP ADVISOR GREEN LEADERS LOGOI was really interested in Jenny Rushmore’s presentation at the WTM.  As Director of TripAdvisor GreenLeaders, she works to promote sustainable travel practices and has a unique insight into how guests react to sustainability initiatives in hotels.  Her detailed research revealed that consumers only notice a limited set of sustainable activities, but they do feel positively about them, and those that are interactive are most noticed.

TripAdvisor reviews which mention green practices are usually related to specific and highly visible attributes like recycling and towel/linen re-use, says Jenny. Other ‘green’ initiatives like lightbulbs, toiletries, landscaping, renewable energy and opt-out housekeeping rarely get a mention. These are more ‘behind the scenes’ and consumers aren’t able to make an impact here, so it’s clear that visibility does matter.

It should follow then, that, if visibility matters, so too should communication. So how do we create the necessary consumer interest and engagement to build foundations for the next level of behaviour change?

There’s general agreement too that when it comes to water, it’s even more difficult because water consumption is intrinsically linked to the customer experience. No-one wants to spend their hard-earned salary on a hotly anticipated holiday in a luxury five star resort to be told ‘please only shower for 3 minutes’ and ‘please don’t think about having clean sheets tonight’!  This conflict between the desired customer experience and desired customer behaviour is the challenge that needs to be addressed in my opinion.

My solution? Well, as with many sustainability matters, it goes back to the old adage: ‘think globally, act locally’.

Whilst there are many consumers who interact with hotels and leisure facilities for pleasure, there are also many who use them for business. Going on holiday to Cornwall with the kids?  I’d wager that bathtime for a family of five isn’t going to be the best opportunity to drive water reduction strategies.   Shooting up to Birmingham straight from the office to head to an industry event after a quick shower and turnaround? Yes!!

I believe it all comes down to quality data – a detailed look at location, demographics and typical usage.  By thoroughly analysing guest behaviour on a location-by-location, or even region-by-region level, it’s possible to refine a water sustainability strategy without negatively impacting the guest experience.

Greywater-diagram1-1024x970All of this is important because water is increasingly recognised by consumers as the next big global environmental challenge, and because, typically, hotels have a larger environmental impact than similarly sized non-hotel buildings.  I say ‘typically’ because we have been working with Whitbread to create an altogether different model.  Through detailed consultancy and the implementation of greywater recycling during the build process, we have helped the company work towards its water reduction goals by creating an industry first.  We will be revealing new developments on this shortly, so I won’t go into it here but we are proud of being a part of this major step forward for the travel sector.

Meanwhile, to conclude, I feel strongly that it is important to communicate sustainability to consumers within the travel sector.  But let’s start the consumer engagement process with a well thought through strategy.  Let’s do it with data, insight and brand-relevant tactics that help add value to the consumer experience rather than detracting from it.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic for ‘water use’ to be one of those most noticed and most commented sustainability activities that get positive reviews on TripAdvisor?


Water market reform: Testing the water for April 2017

Negotiating price and demanding better service is a basic right of consumers, a right that hasn’t historically been available to water users.  Since market opening in Scotland in 2008, and the introduction of new legislation into the Water Act in 2014, this has now changed with water market reform.


Organisations are already able to negotiate and switch water supplier for sites in Scotland, with the English market becoming fully open to competition by April 2017.  With this date fast approaching, companies are realising the benefits of utilising Scotland as preparation for competition in England by going through a process of water supply procurement.  However, water poses many complexities, misleading offers and unclear information.  Utilising a provider with many years of experience and knowledge of water company pricing structures is a sure way to get the best deal for your organisation, just as Tesco recently did by partnering with Waterscan.

tesco extra Glasgow Silverburnv2



Catherine Chebib, Buying Manager – Renewable Energy & Environmental Generation Technologies, said “Through working with Waterscan on our Scottish water supply tender, we have secured the best deal possible whilst ensuring all our key supply criteria have been satisfied.  They tailored their tendering process to fit existing Tesco procurement practices ensuring it integrated smoothly with our usual systems.


Waterscan supported with the review of received bids, utilising their water company charging structure knowledge and expertise in the retail industry to assist with short-listing and the final selection of supplier.  Their approach was comprehensive and professionally independent, with Tesco’s best interests at the core of their work. We would have no hesitation in recommending Waterscan’s services for water procurement and look forward to working with them again when the competitive market opens in England in 2017.”


Modern Water Management Systems

As water becomes increasingly scarce and more precious, it’s nice to know there are enterprising, ecologically aware businesses offering the latest in greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting systems. Water sustainability is something everybody will need to look into sooner or later, so there’s no better time than now to familiarise yourself with how these systems work.

How Much Water Is Your Business Wasting? water management

Before looking at water management systems, it’s best to look at your current water management. Start with a professional water audit, whereby qualified technicians will inform you of how much water you’re using and where it is being discharged. You may have a leak you’re unaware of, faulty equipment, or unjustified water expenses from your supplier. Even if you have none of these things, you can still save a lot of money with a water management system.

Do You Have A Water Strategy?

All good businesses have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) targets, but many are unsure how to add water management to the equation. A good water strategy should assess financial, operational, reputational, and regulatory risks and offer water management solutions to suit. There are some practical tools that can be implemented, and experts who know how to use them. If you’re conducting a review of your CSR targets, you’re doing your business a disservice by not looking at water management.

Could You Need a Rainwater Harvesting System?

water management This naturally depends on the nature of your business, but with potential savings of 75% on potable water bills and opportunities to reduce mains water consumption by 30%, it’s worth thinking about. Rainwater harvesting systems take rainwater from the roof of your building, filter it, house it in storage tanks, and redirect it for uses such as flushing toilets, running cooling systems, irrigating land, and numerous other solutions. The storage tanks require less concrete upon installation, are largely self-cleaning, use very little energy, and offer a speedy return on investment (ROI).


Could You Need a Greywater Recycling System?

If you run a large complex such as a hotel or leisure centre the answer is probably yes. These systems reduce mains water consumption by as much as 40%. Greywater recycling systems take water from showers and baths which is subject to natural aeration and a filtration membrane to remove biodegradable particles, before the clean, green water is repurposed for laundry facilities, toilets, and similar applications. The entire system can be managed remotely and ROI can be achieved in 2.5 years.

Contact Waterscan Today for any queries surrounding water management.